Ecclesiastical Trial of Bérenger Saunière
SENTENCE of 5 December 1911
In the name of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, we, Gustave Cantegril, Judge in the Bishop's Court of the Diocese of Carcassonne, assisted by Canon Messal and Abbé Pradiès, instructor at the Grand Sèminaire, assessors to the Court, judging in the first instance and being mindful only of the glory of God, have handed down the following sentence:
CONSIDERING the sentence of the Bishop's Court dated 5 November 1910, condemning Abbé Bérenger Saunière to undertake spiritual exercises for a period of ten days, and enjoining him to present to His Lordship the Bishop his accounts relating to the building works that he has had carried out at Rennes-le-Château, and further to place himself at the disposal of his Diocesan Bishop regarding the use of this real estate;
CONSIDERING the petition of the Official Prosecutor of 13 October 1911, confirming that the priest Monsieur Saunière has neither rendered exact accounts to the Commission set up by His Lordship the Bishop, nor
placed the use of the real estate at the disposal of his Diocesan Bishop, which demands in consequence that the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière be once more brought before the Bishop's Court to be constrained with a view to the execution of the sentence of 5 November 1910;
CONSIDERING the summons of 30 October 1911, by which the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière is summoned to appear before the Bishop's Court on 21 November 1911;
CONSIDERING a letter of 4 November 1911, by which the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière seeks to elude his summons;
CONSIDERING the confirmation dated 9 November 1911, of the summons of the 30 October 1911;
CONSIDERING that, on 21 November 1911, the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière did not present himself before the hearing, either in person or via his authorised representative, and that the Bishop's Court decided that a peremptory summons should be issued against him;
CONSIDERING the peremptory summons of 21 November 1911, by which the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière was summoned to appear before the Bishop's Court on 5 December 1911 on pain of being declared in contempt of court and judged accordingly;
CONSIDERING the letter of 27 November 1911, by which the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière had recourse to prevarications in order to elude this summons;
CONSIDERING the confirmation dated 29 November 1911, of the peremptory summons of 21 November 1911;
CONSIDERING that the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière did not present himself either in person or via his authorised representative at the hearing of 5 December 1911, and that the Court declared him to be in contempt of court and judged him accordingly;
HAVING HEARD the indictment of the Official Prosecutor;
CONSIDERING the report presented to His Lordship the Bishop by the Commission charged with investigating the accounts of the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière;
CONSIDERING that the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière has, without any mandate, appointed himself a collector among the faithful in favour of pious works, as is evident from the hearing of 5 November 1910;
CONSIDERING that the proceeds of these collections had a particular destination that the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière was not free to change according to his whims;
CONSIDERING that, according to his own statements, he should have dedicated the proceeds to the improvement of the church and the construction of an old people's home for aged or infirm priests;
CONSIDERING that it is a matter of public notoriety that, if the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière has devoted some of the funds to the church, he has never put into effect the work for which he principally collected it;
CONSIDERING that the Diocesan Bishop has only been able to acquire cognisance of all the courses of action of the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière during the judicial proceedings that were instituted against him in 1910 for trafficking in fees for masses, the definitive sentence of which, dated 5 November 1910, condemned him to a retreat of ten days.
CONSIDERING that, on the same day, the Judge in the Bishop's Court, disturbed by the revelations of the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière, who claims to have collected and spent almost 200,000 francs, handed down a provisional sentence enjoining the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière to present his accounts to His Lordship the Bishop, in his capacity as administrator of all the pious works of his Diocese, accounts that he should have presented a long time ago spontaneously and on an annual basis;
CONSIDERING that the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière has claimed that he has rendered accounts, and that the Commission appointed by His Lordship the Bishop to receive them has been able to establish:
1)that it was not proven that the approximate sum of 200,000 francs that he had collected had been spent, since he was only able to justify an expenditure of approximately 36,000 francs, and that, even if the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière had been able to spend usefully a part of the funds received on the church and the Calvary, he has spent the remainder on very expensive building works having no utility and no any connection with the end that he was claiming to pursue;
CONSIDERING certain statements of the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière, and the written statement of the Commission, it appears that the building works which account for the expenditure are not even his property, since they have been built on land that he has stated does not belong to him;
CONSIDERING that he has thereby compromised for all time the destination of the sums that he had solicited and received;
CONSIDERING that, from all the foregoing, it appears that the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière is guilty of peculation and misappropriation of the funds of which he was the depositary;
On the advice of the assessors to the Bishop's Court
In The Holy Name Of God,
We condemn the priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière to a suspension a divinis for a period of three months, effective from the day of the notification of the present sentence, which suspension in any case will continue until he has undertaken the restitution into the hands of the rightful owner and according to canon law of the goods misappropriated by him.
This sentence, being handed down through a contempt of court, is without appeal.
Done and decided at Carcassonne at the Bishop's Court, 5 December 1911.
Canon F Pradiès
G Cantegril, Vicar-General
The Clerk of the Court:
L Charpentier, Canon.